Starting January 2022, I will be participating in a research project on research ethics led by Liv Nilsson Stutz. Through a series of comparative studies of practices and guidelines in museums, the Ethical Entanglements project seeks to elucidate how ethical decisions are made and what values inform these decisions. My role in the project will be to benchmark existing ethics practice in museums and archaeology and best practices in specific forensic science fields: forensic anthropology and forensic archaeology, in the sub-project Regulating postmortem privacy. I will explore how postmortem privacy, individuality and bodily integrity of human remains is defined and regulated in these fields.
After participating in the DigiDeath conference as one of the keynote speakers on 28 January, I wrote a short blog post on the Ethical Entanglements website with some thoughts on how we (archaeologists, bioarchaeologists, museum specialists) visualize death and burial in the past. Mortuary archaeology, particularly when communicated to wider audiences, appears to be inextricably linked with images of the dead, bones, skeletons. Scroll through any social media news feed on archaeology, and you will soon encounter images of the mortal remains of past people. The display of bodies in this way has triggered many debates on the ethics of research practice and communication. And when images of the dead take center stage, we risk minimizing or losing the important sociocultural context and archaeological narrative, and reducing the dead to a curiosity. What if we could find new ways of visualizing death in the past? Instead of allowing images of dead bodies to dominate communication of mortuary archaeology, could we use 3D and VR technologies to visualize the context and narrative, to engage audiences in the story behind the bones? Read the blog pot here!